Archive for October, 2018

The Bard – Yet Again?? …

Posted on October 28, 2018. Filed under: Books |

From The Wire by Pramod K. Nayar who teaches at the University of Hyderabad. 

Will no one get rid of this turbulent playwright? Apparently not! When the world’s most popular (defamed?) author comes up against a most brilliant interpreter, the contest is amazing.

Stephen Greenblatt, Pulitzer winning Harvard professor, returns to his old hunting ground in a highly readable account of the dramatist’s most enduring theme – Power.

But, and this is the catch, it is not (just) a Shakespeare book. It is a book about our times: its totalitarian regimes, its demagogues, its dictators and, horrifyingly, its democratically elected tyrants.

The case Greenblatt makes for tyranny is emphatically not restricted to Henry VI, Richard III, Lear, Macbeth, Leontes – the ostensible subjects of his study, but can be applied to the people who occupy positions of power – institutional, state, corporate.

Greenblatt begins with Henry VI (Part II), where he shows how a perceived weakness at the centre of a state enables a less-than-able person to occupy the throne, and acquire the power that comes with it.

Chaos is also engineered – there is always the bogeyman of ‘national security’ – so that what Greenblatt calls ‘fraudulent populism’ drives the successful bid for the throne.

The leader-in-waiting has only contempt for the underclass: ‘he despises them, hates the smell of their breath, fears that they carry diseases, and regards them as fickle, stupid, worthless, and stupid’ but ‘they can be made to further his ambitions’.

Appeals to various segments of society with promises of their welfare if elected, but underwritten by contempt and issuance of threats, are instances Greenblatt’s analysis of Shakespeare directs us to from our own time.

There is a promise, Greenblatt says, to ‘make England great again’ and appeals made to the people on the basis of parochially inflected jingoism about ‘us’ and ‘them’.

It is the break down of basic values – respect for order, civility, and human decency – that enables a tyrant to capture power.

But Greenblatt shows how political propaganda in terms that would have ‘provoked charges of treason’ and outrage at some point in the past – hate speech, exclusionary and discriminatory language, unverifiable accusations, implied threats from within, the attack on established national values enshrined in the constitution – become acceptable as a build up to the demagogue’s ascent.

In another case Greenblatt maps the psychological make up of tyrants: ‘barking orders’, ‘no natural grace, no sense of shared humanity, no decency’, and ‘the feelings of others mean nothing to him’.

A tyrant divides the world into winners and losers. More worryingly, Greenblatt notes, ‘the public good is something only losers like to talk about’, and what a tyrant likes to talk about is only winning.

In an age when the public good has been subsumed under the target of corporate good (and corporate greed), and anybody defending the former is a ‘loser’ (read: liberals!), we understand Richard III, the immediate subject of analysis.

Such tyrants are supported and encouraged by ‘enablers’.

First, there are those who cannot accept and see the tyrant for what he is and what he will do to the nation: ‘they have a strange penchant for forgetting … just how awful he is … they are drawn irresistibly to normalise what is not normal’. 

Then there are those who feel ‘frightened and impotent in the face of bullying and the menace of violence’. Then there is a group that hopes to benefit from the rise of the tyrant.

Finally, there is a crowd that simply carries out orders, ‘hoping to seize something along the way for themselves, still others enjoying the cruel game of making his targets … suffer and die’.

Greenblatt makes it clear that all these are persistent ‘types’, and each one, in their own way is complicit with the tyrant. This is lived experience, transformed into theatre, emphasises Greenblatt.

But uneasy lies the head that wears the undeserving crown – the tyrant having reached his goal is solely obsessed with loyalty and suspects everybody around him, there is growing fear and frustration at not being able to keep the confidence of his ‘trusted’ people.

He only seeks ‘flattery, confirmation, and obedience’. Naturally, there is no appeal to the general populace, who never count in his scheme of things: he only seeks to secure his position, further.

When signs and portents – or accusations, dissent, public opinion – appear, finally, the tyrant lashes out. He ensures the exit of anybody, from within his party/inner circle, or even his older mentors, through any means.

In Shakespeare they are killed, of course, as is the case with the Stalins and the Pol Pots, but Greenblatt’s reading allows us to see how even in democracies the former more-moderate comrades and mentors are erased, marginalised, sent away.

Those with a vestige of self-reflexivity – a rare thing in any tyrant – discover what they have brought upon themselves. Greenblatt cites Macbeth as an instance here, and his ‘tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow’ soliloquy.

When the tyrant makes absurd promises or indulges in crazy rituals or unwarranted exercise of power, few recognise them as a deteriorating mind and personality, evidenced for Greenblatt in Lear’s actions that precipitate the crisis in the kingdom eventually.

As Greenblatt argues, even in systems with ‘multiple moderating institutions, the chief executive almost always has considerable power’, but the question is: is he fit to employ it? ‘What if he begins to make decisions that threaten the well-being and security of the realm?’

This is a question that resonates throughout history, as Greenblatt makes clear. Those who object are summarily dismissed, counter-opinions are discounted.

Those who stay silent, are complicit and commit the wrong  with the tyrant (Gandhi is reported to have said, ‘I serve the empire by not partaking in its wrong’).

Greenblatt explores resistance, such as it is, from courtiers, insiders, and well-wishers of the realm, but acknowledges that it is hard to fight a tyrant.

However, there are unlikely possibles: such as the very minor servant who says ‘hold your hand, my lord’ when Cornwall is about to gouge out Gloucestor’s eye in King Lear.

Then there is a courtier’s wife, Paulina, who stands up to the tyrant-king, Leontes, in A Winter’s Tale.

Greenblatt reads the former as an unforgettable moment when ‘someone in the ruler’s service feels compelled to stop what he is witnessing’.

Although the common people, ‘easily manipulated by slogans, cowed by threats, or bribed by trivial gifts’ do not resist, ‘tyrannicides are drawn … from the same elite whose members generate the unjust rulers they oppose and eventually kill’.

But even the small voice of dissent, Greenblatt seems to suggest, is a blow against the tyrant. Greenblatt gives pride of place to two lines in A Winter’s Tale when Paulina, threatened with death by burning by the king,

Leontes, retorts: “It is a heretic that makes the fire – Not she who burns in it”.

Greenblatt calls these as ‘some of the most magnificent words of defiance in all of Shakespeare’.


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The French Way – Diagnosis, Treatment …

Posted on October 26, 2018. Filed under: Pakistan, The French Contribution |

THE FRENCH WAY by Rear Admiral Mian Zahir Shah (Retd)  PAK Navy …

Like the uniform, parades are a part and parcel of military life. There are daily parades, passing out parades, ceremonial parades, and even blanket parades. There is also a little parade in the morning in every military unit, which is called the sick parade.

 The sick parade is one parade that is never a favourite with the Command, for the men on this parade are invariably not going to be available for work for that day.

There is always a certain percentage of the ship’s company on sick parade. Some are the genuinely sick, while others are pretenders trying to get away from some unpleasant work. They are called malingerers, and malingering is a punishable offense.

While a complaint of stomach-ache or headache is a favourite ploy, good malingering requires talent and some even take it to the level of a fine art. 

When we went to France for manning a submarine, it came as no surprise – as soon as the men had got their bearings in that new country – to see a sizeable sick parade shuffle along to try their hand with the French Medical Officer in the submarine base.

After an hour or so the sick parade returned in a very subdued manner. Stranger still, they were most uncommunicative about their treatment and about the medicines they had received.

Next morning the sick parade was much smaller. On the third day the sick parade were zero and miraculously remained like that – except for the really genuine cases – for the rest of their stay in France.

The command was pleasantly surprised with this miracle and was most curious to know how it had happened. Soon it was discovered that the reason for it all was the French medical practice.

In Pakistan we follow the British medical system and have become quite comfortable with it. We gulp down pills that are sugar coated, open up our mouths to take the thermometer, and roll up our sleeves to take injections.

 The French doctors on the other hand, ask you to take your pants down for almost anything. 

Injections are given on fleshy buttocks, temperature is taken anally with a comparatively monstrous thermometer, and tablets, or suppositories, also administered anally, are equally oversized and need no sugar coating for where they are going. 

 The suppositories were promptly nicknamed ‘torpedoes&#39’ by the submarine sailors, and the process of taking them was called ‘loading stern tubes’.

It was, in fact, a bewildering experience for an unsuspecting Pakistani – even civilian – to go to a doctor in France for the first time.

Even if his complaint was a simple, innocent ailment like a sore throat, he was bound to find himself set upon by white-gowned people, all speaking an incomprehensible language, who would straight away subject him to a series of the most unmentionable indignities.

Furthermore, the doctor also insisted that the first of the suppositories be taken by the patient right there and then, s’il vous plait, to see that he gets it right. This was culture shock at its worst!

The stay in France was not a short one, so the sailors learnt to live with their ailments stoically, manfully enduring discomfort and pain than bruise their sensitive egos.

And when writing back home, medicines started taking priority over spices in the lists of items that near and dear ones were asked to send to them in France.

It was a happy day for everyone when the submarine eventually arrived in Pakistan.

But along with the general happiness, one long dormant and practically forgotten headache of the command slowly raised its ugly head once more. With the gradual replacement of the French medicines by local ones, the sick parades returned STRONG!

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Sam on a Personal Enemy …

Posted on October 25, 2018. Filed under: Uncategorized |

A sordid Story which began when Gen Thimayya was Chief and Nehru’s blue eyed Defense Minister – VK Krishna Menon began to under cut and humiliate the Chief in order to pave the way for the rise of the Kashmiri ASC Gen BM Kaul – a distant cousin of the PM.

The Story starts when the Defense Minister visits Maj Gen Sam Manekshaw who was GOC 26 Div and tries to enlist him against his own Chief – Gen Thimayya. Sam of course refuses point blank and thereby begins to  dig his own grave.

This is the cause de terre for the enquiry which was initiated against Sam a year or so later when he was Commandant of the Staff College.

The principle witness against Sam in the enquiry against him was a close colleague and friend – then Col – later Brigadier – Kim Yadav who happened to be the the first CO of a very dear course mate and friend, who vouches his elan and professionalism. Kim was, indeed, an outstanding officer, who was for a while, ADC to Lord Louis Mountbatten.

Years later when Sam took over Western Command where Brig Kim Yadav  was Commanding a Brigade, Sam heard some officers in the Mess, in hushed tones belittling Brig Yadav. Turning to them he says, “Gentlemen, Brig Kim Yadav professionally is  head and shoulders above most of you – all he lacks is character”.

The late PKK Raju, a Rimcollian, was present with the FIFTH when it was part of Kim Yadav’s Brigade and used to narrate this exercise which most every one thought was to fix Kim. This seemed  more so Sam as Army Commander himself attended.

The brigade had performed pretty well and Sam went up for his Summing Up, most every one thought that Sam would now tear apart Kim. But Sam went to the podium, looked round and spoke just one sentence before he shook the Commanders’ hand. He had said was that were he himself commanding the brigade, he could not have done better!

And at the end of the 1971 war, Kim Yadav sent a telegram to Sam, ‘You seem to have won the war all by yourself – without any help from me! My Congratulations’.

Those were the Days and these were the Guys.


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A 19 Century Parsee …

Posted on October 25, 2018. Filed under: Personalities |

The Wire’s –  Behramji Malabari …

Behramji Malabari (1853-1912) was social reformer, journalist, poet, travel writer/ethnographer and vital catalyst of change, who did much to shape the national reform discourse in late-19th century Western India.

Born in Baroda and raised in Surat, Malabari moved to Bombay at age 15 and the metropolis became the central site of his myriad investigations into identity and reform, including questions on what it meant to be a Parsi in this city, at the heart of Empire, as opposed to in rural Gujarat.

Malabari had two biographies written about him before he was 40; another shortly after his death in 1912, and then disappeared almost completely from the pages of both Parsi and national reform histories, reduced at best to a mere footnote.

I am the Widow: An Intellectual Biography of Behramji Malabari (Orient Blackswan, 2018) attempts to examine the reasons for this erasure. The following excerpt is drawn from its analysis of Malabari’s scathing indictment of some sections of the Bombay (and wider) Parsi community at the turn of the 19th-century.

We now turn to Malabari’s reading of the Parsi community in his chapter on them in Gujarat and the Gujaratis (1882) which marks the beginning of a career-spanning musing about the writer’s community, its place in India, and his place within it as a social reformer.

The chapter essentially deals with the condition of the rural, more conservative Parsi community settled in Gujarat, and not their peers in ‘reformed’ Bombay.

Sounding a note of ominous doom at the outset, Malabari starts by saying that the Parsis of Surat – long the “head-quarters” of the community –“have fallen upon evil days”.

This is largely because the “Shettia” or aristocratic class has become “by training, lazy, listless, gregarious… grovelling for generations in one and the same groove”.

To his mind, this class cannot understand patriotism, by which he means more than mere loyalty to the British crown: patriotism here seems to be invested with that spirit of public service which marks – to one such as him – the entire colonial enterprise.

Neither do they remember the virtue of “charity…the very basis of their grand old faith”. His choice of the distancing ‘their’ can be read as follows: he does not, by virtue of habit and present circumstance, number himself in the list of Parsi ‘Gujaratis’.

This can be read as a further bid to place or project himself as Parsi, but simultaneously and importantly, more than Parsi; to stake a claim for himself as a national reformer.

Malabari explains his grievances by elaborating, “No doubt our Shetts are loyal to the British Crown; but to what ruling power have they ever been disloyal? Loyalty is their policy, their interest”, and not a matter of ethical or philosophical consent.

Tongue firmly in cheek, he adds that he has no further quarrel with these ‘Shetts’, who are largely “honest, peace-loving citizens” who seldom beat their wives, and have only a few “old-gentlemanly vices” to counterbalance their many “old-gentlemanly virtues”.

The Sheths in Bombay, he holds, come out a little better than the ones in the countryside, but even they are not spared from the problems that are attendant to ‘priestly influence’.

Malabari then proceeds to discuss the relative merits (or lack thereof) of the Parsi Panchayat as an institution. It is, he says, “a highly respectable body” before qualifying the statement by adding, “but it seems to be a body without a soul”.

Making clear the disdain in which he holds the orthodox faction which controls this institution, his description of the Panchayat Sheth is as hilarious as it is acutely sarcastic. He writes that this Sheth is, as a rule:

A prim old man, well shaven, well washed, and well scented. This faultlessly white being walks as if he were a basket of newly-laid eggs…(and) seems to be in dread of progress, of the very motion of life…he hates action of any kind (and) hugs indolence, rejoices in its company and revels in its seductive bosom.

When, once in six months, he is required to attend to a little public business, he helplessly turns to his steward and asks broken-hearted, “Oh! What’s to do again?” as if only an hour ago he had done some tremendous deed of heroism for his country.

The Shett sits down with a grimace, stands up with a yawn, salutes with an ogle or with a rather original parting of the lips, which process he flatters himself is a smile.

He is sensitively nervous about his health. He will not get out of his carriage till a few minutes after it has stopped; this is to avoid any internal agitation which might follow a hasty descent…

Except in these respects, the Shett is a very worthy citizen, and a thoroughly loyal subject of her Majesty. But he has no strength, no stamina. He can look no man in the face.

Towards the end of crafting out of India a “mighty, puissant nation” Malabari says that a “glorious middle class” which is educated and “goes on educating itself” is the only way forward, and besides keeping abreast of the latest advances in the arts and sciences, people (here, the Parsis) have to learn “patriotism and to abjure priestcraft,” replacing in the process, the current system with a “new national church, founded on the simple tradition of good thought, good word, and good deed, bequeathed by Zoroaster.

Let them weed their scriptures of its verbiage”. His translation of humata, hukata, hurvashta (‘good thoughts’, ‘good words’ and ‘good deeds’ respectively) as the foundational creed of the ‘new’, ‘purged’ Zoroastrian ‘church’, without the Dastur as intermediary, while echoing Dadabhai Naoroji and other reformers, goes some way towards explaining the discomfort Malabari clearly caused in some quarters of the Bombay Parsi orthodoxy.

These views clearly contributed to his ‘omission’ from any major role when the history of the community was variously narrated in and after the twentieth century. The ‘ideal’ community, Malabari says, cannot come about until there is “sincerity in all we do” and a “rational scheme for life”, neither of which the Parsis could then lay claim to…

Next, the reader is provided with a note on the ‘Reformed Parsi’ of the period. In the interest of objectivity, this sketch is as critical as the ones preceding it. Malabari says he doubts whether young or ‘Reformed’ Parsis are Zoroastrians at all.

Were these youth to live outside the ambit of organised religion altogether, but live lives of purity and honesty, Malabari says he would mind it a lot less than their present behaviour. However, he is quick to attribute this to the fact that there is currently underway a “transition period” in national existence which has led to “wavering” and indecision “at every stage of thought and action”.

Apart from this, the bane of the Parsi youth’s existence remains, as ever, the Dastur (priest). On this note, the keen ethnographer launches into a full frontal attack on the lowest kind of priest, tracing en route “his origin; rise; decline; his fall unfathomable; his ways of life; his sympathies, antipathies, and miseries; (and) what to do with him”.

This title fairly sums up not just the content, but also the tone of the text which follows it: sarcastic in the extreme, resorting to devices of over and understatement to establish the non-credentials of the priestly community or, as Malabari puts it, “the ignis fatuus (literally translated, ‘foolish fire’) of the dark ages of religion”, a line clearly illustrating why the Parsi orthodoxy – then or since – have no love lost for Malabari…

In addition, the dastur is an immensely hypocritical creature who will “never eat or drink with the Hindu or Mussalman, though he may take a cup of tea or a glass of ice-cream with a European official”, an attitude indicative of the axis along which the Parsis would have themselves aligned.

It was convenient even for then-contemporary histories of the Parsi community (from those by D.F. Karaka to Darukhanawala, and European scholars like C.A. Kincaid writing about the community as ‘the lost Greeks’ in East & West) to focus on the ‘alien-ness’ of the Parsis despite their lengthy stay – and obvious assimilation – in India, because it suited their purposes to be seen/placed or acknowledged, alongside the English, as fellow ‘outsiders’ to the Indian ethos.

This rendered the community both useful to the English as well as ‘different’ enough from ‘Indians’ to allow for different rules of engagement with the rulers to apply to them.

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Man Booker Prize 2018 …

Posted on October 18, 2018. Filed under: Books |

From The Wiew –

An unflinching account of an 18-year-old in Northern Ireland in the 1970s against the backdrop of sectarian violence intertwined with dark humour bagged the 2018 Man Booker Prize in London on Tuesday.


 Author Anna Burns was named the winner of the 2018 Man Booker Prize for her novel Milkman at a lavish awards ceremony in London on Tuesday night. Burns, 56, who was born in Belfast, is the 17th woman to bag the award in its 49-year history and the first woman since 2013. It was her third novel.


Set in an unnamed city, ‘Milkman’ is a coming of age story of a young woman’s affair with a married man set in the political troubles of Northern Ireland. It focuses on a “middle sister” as she navigates her way through rumour, social pressures and politics in a tight-knit community.

Burns shows the dangerous and complex impact on a woman coming of age in a city at war.

In a review for the GuardianClaire Kilroy stressed on Burns’ emphasis of “the oppressiveness of tribalism, of conformism, of religion, of patriarchy, of living with widespread distrust and permanent fear” and lauded the narrator’s voice as “original, funny, disarmingly oblique and unique.”

“None of us has ever read anything like this before. Anna Burns’ utterly distinctive voice challenges conventional thinking and form in surprising and immersive prose,” said Kwame Anthony Appiah, the chair of the 2018 judging panel.

“It is a story of brutality, sexual encroachment and resistance threaded with mordant humour. Set in a society divided against itself, ‘Milkman’ explores the insidious forms oppression can take in everyday life,” he said.

Unusually, in the book, the characters have designations rather than names. In an interview for the Man Booker Prize website, she said, “The book didn’t work with names. It lost power and atmosphere and turned into a lesser – or perhaps just a different – book. In the early days I tried out names a few times, but the book wouldn’t stand for it. The narrative would become heavy and lifeless and refuse to move on until I took them out again. Sometimes the book threw them out itself.”

The judges considered 171 submissions for this year’s prize. Burns, who lives in East Sussex in England, saw off competition from two British writers, two American writers and one Canadian writer.

In addition to Milkman, the Booker Prize shortlist – two-thirds of which were written by women – included Robin Robertson’s The Long Take, which uses prose to follow a World War II veteran across the US in Hollywood’s postwar glory years.

Richard Powers’ The Overstory, a work of narrative with an ecological message, The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner, an steadfast account by a woman of poverty and mass incarceration, Esi Edugyan’s Washington Black, an unusual story of colonial slavery and the burden of freedom, and Daisy Johnson who’s nomination for Everything Under, her debut novel about a complex mother-daughter relationship, made her the youngest nominee in the Man Booker Prize history.

Man Booker Prize

Milkman is published by Faber & Faber, making it the fourth consecutive year the prize has been won by an independent publisher.

Burns’ win was announced by Kwame Anthony Appiah at a dinner at London’s Guildhall. She was presented with a trophy by Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, and a 50,000 pounds cheque by Luke Ellis, Chief Executive of Man Group.

The recipient of the Man Booker Prize gets 52,500 pounds ($69,223 or Rs 50.85 lakh). The winning author also receives a designer bound edition of her book and a further 2,500 pounds for being short-listed.

“We are honoured to support the Man Booker Prize for the sixteenth year, as it continues in its fiftieth year to champion literary excellence and the power of the novel on a global scale,” Ellis said.

Appiah, a British-born Ghanaian-American novelist, was joined on the 2018 judging panel by crime writer Val McDermid; cultural critic Leo Robson; feminist writer and critic Jacqueline Rose; and artist and graphic novelist Leanne Shapton.

In 2017, George Saunders won the Man Booker Prize for Lincoln in the Bardo, making him the second American in a row to win the prize after the Man Booker Foundation decided to change the rules in 2014 to include for consideration of the prize, any novel written in English and published in Britain.

The Man Booker Prize was previously limited to authors from Britain, Ireland, Zimbabwe and the Commonwealth. Northern Irish writer Anna Burns’ win will do well to assuage the fears of those within the literary community who fear the intrusion of an American hegemony in the Man Booker awards. 

Val McDermid, the best-selling crime writer and one member of the Man Booker judging panel, said, “The kind of people who read literary fiction do not ask authors for passports.”


And the Blog of a Young Girl

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Three Thoughts …

Posted on October 16, 2018. Filed under: Guide Posts |


“Ishmael, my brother hear my plea

It was the angel who tied thee to me

 Time is running out, put hatred to sleep

Shoulder to shoulder – let’s gather our sheep”


“If you are desirous of obtaining a great name, or becoming the founder of a sect or establishment, be completely mad; but be sure that your madness corresponds with the turn and temper of your age. 

Have in your madness reason enough to guide your extravagances, and to not forget to be excessively opinionated and obstinate.  

It is certainly possible that you may get hanged; but if you escape hanging, you will have altars erected to you”.



Every twenty years Comes to us a gambling man

To stake our country and culture 

And resources and rivers; 

And trees and fruits. And men and women

And the waves and the sea    —   At the gambling table!

We die; broken, hated Cursed like dogs —

While our philosopher in his shelter cogitates destruction into victory.

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Pioneer of #Me Too …

Posted on October 15, 2018. Filed under: Mars & Venus, Personalities |

The Wire – As the #MeToo storm rages across the country, provoking anger and outrage, and also for the first time a creeping fear in the hearts of serial sexual predators who operated till now with carefree impunity, one woman is watching the developments with quiet satisfaction.

From her residence in Chandigarh, retired IAS officer Rupan Deol Bajaj is delighted that after 30 years, her 17 and Half Year struggle to punish the powerful man who sexually harassed her is resonating in the stories flooding social media.

Her oppressor was the all powerful K.P.S. Gill, Director General of Police in Punjab in 1988, who had a sense of  “untrammelled power and arrogance” in the days when his force was battling terrorism.

“Today the women speaking out have safety in numbers. When I called out the behaviour of Mr Gill, I stood all alone, threatened with death, slander, given punishment postings and a blighted career,” says Bajaj.

“I secured a conviction under the archaic Sections 354 and 509 of the Indian Penal Code; the two sections under which no one had ever filed a case since 1860, when the British first drafted the IPC. These sections are usually clubbed with Section 376 for rape or attempt to rape, but never in isolation’.

“This, because offences that fall under these sections are considered too trivial to even merit a FIR, as I learnt the hard way. But they are an affront to the dignity and honour of a woman and can traumatise her for life. Rape falls under the purview of Section 376′.

“I believe that actions that fall under Sections 354 and 509 of the IPC are universal to the extent that almost all women experience it at least five or six times in their lives’.

“Section 509 deals with words, gestures or actions intended to insult the modesty of a woman and section 354 deals with assault or criminal force with the intention of outraging the modesty of a woman’.

“These are a set of provisions different from physical assault, but which deal with crimes only against women as there is an element of modesty involved. So, all those men who think that unwanted lewd gestures or talking dirty are not offences, need to worry.’

“It was the Supreme Court on October 12, 1995 which upheld the crime against me in this category, describing it as a criminal offence. In doing so, the SC rejected the judgement of the high court which dismissed the case under Section 95 of IPC, a ground that it was too trivial a matter to be considered as an offence’.

“The SC held that Section 95 of the IPC cannot be a shelter in cases relating to outraging the modesty of a women because these are not trivial matters”.

Evening in July 1988, when it all happened.

“This was an official party at the house of the home secretary of Punjab and Mr Gill was present in his uniform. The entire top bureaucracy of Punjab was there and Mr Gill called me to come and sit on the chair next to him. I went and was about to sit, when he pulled the chair close to himself. Sensing something amiss, I went back to the group where I was sitting’.

“After ten minutes, he came and stood so close to me that his legs were four inches from my knees. He made an action with the crook of his finger asking me to stand and said, “You get up. You come along with me.”

“I strongly objected to his behaviour and told him, “Mr. Gill How dare you! You are behaving in an obnoxious manner, go away from here”. Whereupon he repeated his words like a command and said, “You get up! Get up immediately and come along with me.”

“I looked to the other ladies, all of whom looked shocked and speechless. I felt apprehensive and frightened, as he had blocked my way and I could not get up from my chair without my body touching his body. I then immediately drew my chair back about a foot and half and quickly got up and turned to get out of the circle through the space between mine and another lady’s chair. Whereupon he slapped me on the posterior. This was done in the full presence of the ladies and guests’.

“It was only later that I realised that most of the ladies in the circle where I was sitting had got up and left because he had misbehaved with them too. In particular was a young doctor from England. He had done much worse with her and she was crying inside. But neither she, nor her mother who was also present, complained about what happened to her that evening. I knew that they would not stand witness in my defence, when they were not even standing up for themselves. Anything like this happening to a woman is considered shameful, something to keep hidden. Then, and even now’.

“I went straight to the home secretary who was the host and Mr Gill’s boss and said, “What kind of people you have invited?” Gill was without any compunction and stood right there while I complained. By now everyone knew that he had upset the other women too so they put him in his car to be sent home’.

“Years later when the home secretary was called to corroborate the events of the evening, he did not tell the court that I had repeated my complaint in the presence of K.P.S. Gill within minutes of the incident, while Gill was swaying and hearing every word of what I said’.

“You know, I did not actually want to go to the police and fight it in the courts…. I wanted the government to take executive action under conduct rules for moral turpitude against him. But everyone from the then Governor S.S. Ray to chief secretary R.S. Ojha told me that they will not do anything. The chief secretary said to me, “Rupan these things keep happening. You are not diminished. Consider yourself lucky, it could have been worse…”

“The Governor, S.S. Ray, very clearly told me to forget it and go home. He would not do anything. I even went to Sarla Grewal, then secretary in the PMO.  All this made me angrier than ever. I was keeping it from the media too, but one Mumbai-based newspaper, the Indian Post, splashed the story the day after I met Ray’.

“When everything else failed, I went to the police as a last resort, ten days after the incident. V.N. Singh, the inspector general of police, who had seen everything as he was also present at the party that day, took my complaint, gave me a receipt that it had been registered. He then put it in an envelope and sealed it. When I asked him why he had sealed it, he said, “It is my duty to register your complaint, which I have done, but what I do with it after that is entirely up to me. We will investigate only when you get a mandamus from the court.”

“And he very patronisingly told me that his action will somehow save my reputation. I gave a copy of the FIR to the Indian Express because I wanted my version of events to come out instead of the half truths being spoken around. It took me another seven years to get the direction from the SC to prosecute Gill’.

“Even as I ran around trying to persuade the government to take action, there was the constant fear that this should not come out in the open. I did not want media coverage. This is the social conditioning we all grow up with. The die is cast once you write it all down in the FIR. Even my highly educated mother dissuaded me from registering a FIR. I was asked to cry over it privately and move on’.

“Once I drafted the FIR and gave it to the police and the media, I felt liberated and unburdened from the fear of the world coming to know about it. I was an empowered woman but the system and society were conspiring to disempower me. My family and I received death threats. People would call up and say you will disappear and no one will hear of you again. Remember, this was the Punjab of the ’80s when mysterious disappearances were the order of the day’.

“I am so gratified to see so many women coming out to talk about their trauma. Many are doing so years after they were harassed. Make no mistake, this is the most difficult and courageous thing for a woman to do and no one can doubt her when she finally decides to speak’.

Donald Trump is saying, “This is a scary time for men.” I say this is a scary time only for those who were at it with impunity for years. Women, who are 50% of the population are believing the #Me Too stories  because similar things have happened to most of them at some point of time or the other. It resonates with their own experiences. Majority of men in the society are good, but we also know this to be true’.

“My case has set a precedent which will benefit them all. For a change women are being believed. They should not back down at all, and if M.J. Akbar and others say they will take them to court, let them fight it collectively; but they must not compromise’.

“Firstly, the court has defined ‘modesty’ for the first time in my case as it applies to these two sections of IPC. Secondly, the court has laid down that to prove such matters, one witness is enough and the victim herself is the best witness, as long as she is being truthful. Thirdly, in every crime, the prosecution has to prove the intention of the accused. But here it was held that there is no need to prove intention, but just his knowledge of having acted indecently is sufficient to prosecute a person. Fourthly, the court set a time limit of six months in which to complete the trial, so as to ensure that the victim is not deliberately tired out in long-drawn litigation’.

“The difference now is that none of these women need to take the men to court. Their having had the courage to speak on social media is enough for everyone to believe them. It is the single most important validation of  the truth.  If the accused man goes to court, then my precedent gives them ample ammunition to fight it there”.

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Jane Austen – Feminist Fairy …

Posted on October 13, 2018. Filed under: Books |

FromThe Wire – Robert Morrison is professor of English language and literature, Queen’s University, Ontario.

Though she created her stories more than 200 years ago, Jane Austen’s novels were forerunners of feminism.

Jane Austen is not an obvious ally of today’s feminist movement. All six of her novels are now more than two centuries old. All six centre on a tale of provincial domesticity and romantic courtship. And all six are full of twists and witty turns that move inexorably toward a gratifyingly happy ending.

Yet below their glittering surfaces and rose-coloured tales of well-matched couples falling deeply in love, Austen’s novels vigorously critique the patriarchal structures of her day. They bristle with anger and a deep sense of injustice. Many of her plots and sub-plots about men and power — and women’s resilience in the face of that power — sound like stories we are hearing today.

Austen wrote in the early 1800s, when life for most women involved submerging their individual identities in their responsibilities as daughters, wives and mothers. Women were considered politically, economically, socially and artistically subordinate to men. It was a life that condemned many women to half-lives of humiliation, loneliness and abuse.

The novelist and short story writer Carol Shields has concisely summarized the complicated nature of Austen’s artistry and appeal. Austen, declares Shields, exploits “an arch, incontrovertible amiability” to conceal “a ferocious and persistent moral anger.”

Fairy tales meet social critique

Mr. Darcy’s first marriage proposal to Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice (1813) is the most famous moment in Austen’s most famous novel. It is also the most telling example of Austen’s remarkable ability to combine wish fulfilment with social realism, and fairy-tale romance with biting cultural critique.

The cover of Pride and Prejudice and the scene with Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy.
American Library

On one level, the scene between the two would-be lovers is a world removed from harrowing accounts of sexual harassment and assault. Darcy is proposing marriage to Elizabeth, not sex, and in his eyes at least, it is a very romantic offer.

He knows that her social standing is far below his own, and that in asking for her hand he is going against the wishes of his family and his own better judgment. But, as he patiently and politely explains, his love for her has overpowered him, and he wants her to become his wife.

On a more fundamental level, though, the exchange between the two is full of irony and dark anxieties.

Darcy is a wealthy and well-connected man who enjoys great freedom, and who moves assertively through a world of elegance and opportunity. Elizabeth is a younger and much more vulnerable woman who can already see poverty and spinsterhood out of the corner of her eye, and who can only obtain a place in the higher echelons of society through marriage to a man like Darcy.

The stark power imbalance between them fills Darcy with certainty that Elizabeth will be delighted to learn that she has been singled out by a man of his influence and social standing, and that she will eagerly consent to the match. To be sure, as he outlines his plans for their future, he expresses his “hope” that she will accept him.

But this is an empty gesture. Elizabeth “could easily see that he had no doubt of a favourable answer. He spoke of apprehension and anxiety, but his countenance expressed real security.”

When Darcy concludes his offer and Elizabeth is finally given the chance to speak, she rejects him with an eloquence and a decisiveness that make her among the most admired women in English fiction. Her character gives passionate expression to the anger she (and Austen) felt at patriarchal presumption and authority.

Darcy is utterly confounded by her refusal, but what Elizabeth objects to in his behaviour is what millions of women from her day to ours have objected to. Operating from a position of much greater social and financial power, Darcy wants Elizabeth to agree to an arrangement that suits him, but not her. He presumes that he knows what she wants. He devalues her. He objectifies her. He pressures her.

Elizabeth is having none of this. She may be well below Darcy on the social ladder, but she towers above him in terms of her understanding of sexual politics and gender relations. Darcy expects deference and gratitude from her. She demands respect from him. They spar constantly.

Finally, she lashes out at him for his “arrogance,” his “conceit” and his “selfish disdain of the feelings of others.” No one — let alone a socially inferior woman — will have ever spoken to him in those terms.

Having imposed himself on Elizabeth, Darcy does not like it when she pushes back at him. “His complexion became pale with anger, and the disturbance of his mind was visible in every feature.”

Safely ensconced within the conventions of romance, Elizabeth does not have to worry about Darcy’s anger boiling over into violence. Indeed, after bidding her a civil farewell, his love for her quickly reasserts itself, and then steadily transforms him into a partner who is worthy of her.

Austen occupies a key position in the long continuum of modern feminist thought. As the great novelist and literary critic, Virginia Woolf, observed almost a century ago, “Austen is…mistress of much deeper emotion than appears upon the surface.”

Elizabeth Bennet is her most sparkling character, and she plays the lead role in one of the most compelling love stories of the last 200 years.

But she is also a woman whose bravery, anger, and intelligence enable her to expose the patriarchal assumptions of Darcy, and to refuse him because of them.

Austen’s novels contain insightful contemporary critiques of patriarchy. They also throw searching light on the ways in which those same injustices continue to inflict widespread and long-term damage now.

Ultimately, Austen is about love and mutual respect. Her life was diminished by the same patriarchal structures that damaged the lives of so many women in her era, and far beyond. But Austen can inspire us now because she fought back in her life — and especially in her art.The Conversation


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Fall of an Officer …

Posted on October 11, 2018. Filed under: Personalities |

From TIME …

The Last Temptation of  Michael Flynn – B Admiral Stavridis (Ret.) – 16th Supreme Allied Commander NATO

Lieutenant General Michael Flynn’s enormous fall from grace is an object lesson in the seductive allure of money, fame and power.

His story is perhaps not quite a Greek tragedy, but rather a kind of 21st-century parable with morals for us all.

Throughout my time in uniform with Mike, he was a determined, hard-edged and highly effective intelligence officer — the best ever to serve on my team personally, which he did in Afghanistan while I was the Supreme Allied Commander at NATO and the strategic commander for that mission.

Both General Stan McChrystal — his immediate boss — and I would often comment on how lucky we were to have then Major General Mike Flynn on our team in combat from 2009–2010.

How did he end up a convicted criminal, nationally disgraced, financially ruined and struggling to put his life together again?

Born in a middle-class family, Mike Flynn was never part of the West Point aristocracy of the Army, nor was he a tactical commander in the field.

He attended the University of Rhode Island in his home state and entered the Army through the Reserve Officer Training Corps route as an intelligence officer — destined not to command sweeping armies, but rather to serve as the consigliore and advisor to the warrior commanders, a kind of Machiavelli to the Prince.

In uniform and especially in the field, he was widely acknowledged for his innovation, grit and competence, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan in counter-terror campaigns.

But there are three key facts to understand about Mike Flynn that set the stage for all that has unfolded.

First, his worldview is distinctly threat-based, like most senior military officers. He sees danger and hostility everywhere, and is quick to judge it as well as react aggressively, often with immediate effect. This tendency to listen to the darker angels of his nature served him well in combat, less so in civilian life.

It made him highly receptive to the worldview of President Donald Trump, Steve Bannonand others who are so resolutely predisposed to look at the world through a dark lens.

Second, his background and role as an intelligence specialist led him to search for levers and keys to influencing others, especially our nation’s opponents.

In the Cold War during the early part of his career, he focused on the Soviet Union and watched with fascination and satisfaction as it imploded. He observed the rise of Vladimir Putin and came to understand the emergence of new threats from Moscow.

The chance to go and see Putin up close and personal must have been irresistible to him, and — along with the cash — contributed to his decision to sit next to Putin at the infamous Moscow dinner in 2015, a decision I am certain he would happily reverse in retrospect.

It also made him a logical candidate for the position of National Security Advisor and the conduit for some level of interaction with Russia during the presidential campaign.

Third, like all active-duty military, he never had an opportunity to make significant amounts of money.

Over the 33 years of his service in the Army, he would have earned somewhere around $70,000 annually, averaged out through those decades of service — certainly enough to live on, but hardly a chance to build wealth for his family.

Like many other senior military, especially those like Mike who were nationally known, upon retirement he was deluged with offers from the financial world.

He created a consulting company and made a series of choices about where to provide advice — something he had done throughout his military career — which turned out to lead him into the orbit of Russia in ways that have caught him up.

Thus big money, a chance for real power and the ability to confront the nation’s enemies all came into play, creating someone who could leave many of us shaking our heads as he took the podium at the Republican National Convention and led chants of “lock her up.”

Entering politics for any retired military officer is a deeply dangerous zone, because service in the military hardly prepares you for the unique cut-and-thrust of domestic politics.

Some have done it well — think George Marshall or Colin Powell — and others have crashed and burned, from Ollie North to Michael Flynn.

How his story ends is yet to be determined. Much will turn on the results of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation and his cooperation with it. Mike Flynn has always struck me as forthright and honest at his core.

Mike called his controversial memoir, published soon after he retired – The Field of Fight. He is in for the fight of his life in rebuilding his reputation; but luckily for him, this is a country built on second chances.

He gave this nation great service throughout a long and distinguished military career, and the choices he makes in the weeks and months ahead will tell us whether he will win this most challenging battle.


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The #MeToo Movement …

Posted on October 9, 2018. Filed under: Mars & Venus |

List of Definitions from The Wire —

The following is an alphabetical list of terms that have been used in conversations surrounding the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, together with their definitions.

Abuse – “… when one person hurts another person, physically, emotionally, psychologically and/or financially” ; “Abuse is a learned behaviour; it is not caused by anger, mental problems, drugs or alcohol, or other common excuses”

Boys’ club – A group of men, often at comparable hierarchical positions within an organisation, that seeks to retain and/or distribute authority along gender lines, at its discretion and while seeking to keep women ‘out’ (also see enabler)

Bullying – “An imbalance of power which is used to either defame, harass, intimidate or upset another person” / “Repeated, persistent and aggressive behaviour intended to cause fear, distress or harm to another person’s body, emotions, self-esteem or reputation”.

Complicity – To participate in an activity in a way that improves the chances of the activity’s intended outcomes being achieved; to “facilitate the commission of a violation” of consent, personal agency and/or personal dignity; can be intentional or unintentional

Consent – When one person agrees to the propositions of intimacy of another; consent must be freely given, with full knowledge of the circumstances (see misconception of fact) and the option and ability to opt out whenever they so choose

Consent given under misconception of fact – Consent given when the person believes the circumstances to be what they are actually not (e.g. see stealthing); intent of misconception has to be proven from the beginning and failure to keep a promise does not qualify; covered by Section 90 of the Indian Penal Code

Domestic violence – “Abusive or violent behaviour in a domestic setting”; “Domestic violence is not physical violence alone [but] any behaviour the purpose of which is to gain power and control over a spouse, partner, girl/boyfriend or intimate family member” (also see reproductive coercion)

Enabler – A person who enables another person’s, especially a predator’s, actions by creating opportunities for their behaviour to persist and/or by helping reduce the risk of their suffering the consequences of their actions

Gaslighting – To psychologically manipulate someone in order to make them doubt their own memories and sense of reality

ICC – The Internal Complaints Committee, a body directed to be setup in all ministries, departments, corporations and cooperative societies with 10 or more employees, by the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, and with a specific composition (see to ensure its independence and reliability; the ICC is responsible for addressing complaints of sexual harassment at the workplace, undertaking inquiries and resolving complaints by recommending suitable courses of action to the employer.

Male entitlement – “A man’s belief that he is inherently deserving of” social privileges, as afforded by a patriarchal value-system, because of his gender.

Mansplaining – To explain something to a person in a patronising or condescending manner and without regard for the person’s knowledgeability, expertise or credibility; usually done by a man to a woman

Molesting – To have non-consensual sexual contact with a person; often used as a synonym of sexual assault (see consent)

Negative questioning – “A negative question is one that is worded in such a way as to require a ‘no’ response for an affirmative answer and a ‘yes’ response for a negative answer”; “can also be used to ask for confirmation of a negative belief”used to manipulate consent

Negging – Making a negative comment that is disguised as a positive comment

Pinkwashing – When a person or organisation forwards LGBTQIA+ friendly messaging in order to downplay negative behaviour on the person’s or organisation’s part

Policing – To enforce restrictions upon others that seek to limit what they can or can’t say, can or can’t do, etc., often as a way to control them by making them ashamed of their beliefs

Predator – A person seeking to have sexual intercourse with another person through the use of abusive, or generally disrespectful, behaviour

PTSD – Post-traumatic stress disorder, “a mental health condition triggered by a terrifying event – either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.”

Rape – Any form of sexual penetration to which one person (typically women) of the two involved has not consented

Reproductive coercion – “Reproductive coercion is a form of domestic violence, also known as intimate partner violence, where behaviour concerning reproductive health is used to maintain power, control and domination within a relationship and over a partner through an unwanted pregnancy” (source:

Sexual assault – “A range of criminal acts that are sexual in nature, from unwanted kissing and touching to groping and rape. A broader version of this is ‘sexual violence’, which can include acts that are not necessarily ‘criminal’, such as false promises, insistent pressure, abusive comments or reputational threats to coerce sex acts.”

Sexual harassment – “Sexual harassment includes requests for sexual favours, sexual advances or other sexual conduct when (1) submission is either explicitly or implicitly a condition affecting decisions; (2) the behaviour is sufficiently severe or pervasive as to create an intimidating, hostile or repugnant environment; or (3) the behaviour persists despite objection by the person to whom the conduct is directed”

Shadow-banning – When a person is banned fully or partially from a forum such that their posts and/or responses to others’ comments aren’t visible, effectively silencing them (a synonym of thread-banning in the context of Twitter)

Stalking – “A repetitive pattern of unwanted, harassing or threatening behaviour committed by one person against another. Acts include: telephone harassment, being followed, receiving unwanted gifts, and other similar forms of intrusive behavior”

Stealthing – When a man agrees to wear a condom during sexual intercourse but doesn’t actually do it

Triggering – The provocation of “an intense emotional and psychological reaction” by reminders of a past traumatic event.

Victim-blaming – Blaming the victim for being the cause of their victimhood, instead of blaming the perpetrator

Virtue-signalling – To loudly advertise one’s own virtues, often disguised as anger or outrage, and as a camouflage for essentially talking about how one is a good person.

Vishakha Guidelines – A set of procedural guidelines instituted by the Supreme Court of India in Vishakha and others v. State of Rajasthan, 1997, that define sexual harassment at the workplace and provide safeguards against it; superseded by the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (also see ICC)

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